Bought: J A Mackay, 11th March 2016
91.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
80.47/100 – Whiskybase (average from 462 member votes)
The first Wolfburn distillery actually started life in 1821 but stopped production in the 1850s and was in ruins by the 1870s. Jump forward 140 years and in 2012 approval was given to build a new Wolfburn distillery a mere 350m away from where the old one once stood. The water source for the whisky comes from the nearby ‘Wolf’ burn (stream), which gives the distillery its name. Production started in 2013 so by 2016 we have the first legal 3-year-old whisky ready for release, making Wolfburn the most northerly whisky on mainland Scotland (taking over from Old Pulteney).
I feel a bit sorry for new whisky distilleries because so much of their future reputation hangs on the success of their first release. Generally speaking a 3-year-old whisky is a gamble because it lacks maturity and can taste quite raw and spirity. But if good casks are sourced along with an experienced master distiller, magic can sometimes happen. Kilchoman have had a lot of success with young releases but then Islay whisky packs more punch, which can help mask immaturity. The highland flavours of Wolfburn are going to be more subtle and exposed.
So how has Wolfburn’s first release faired? The score on Whiskybase is better than average but not exactly brilliant. Nevertheless, several experienced reviewers have rated this dram between 84-85/100 and are extremely complimentary. Their thoughts aren’t just about what this whisky is but what it’s like as a building block for future Wolfburn releases, and it’s all very promising. Comments include “all present and correct, very, very good. One of the best [Scottish] 3yo’s around”, “a very fresh and nice taste for 3 year old whisky” and “this warrants a place in the cabinet. This is – keeping the age in mind – a nice introduction. What an entrance, Wolfburn!”
91.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies the Wolfburn as “brilliant”. Jim Murray, the bible author, says “this is a very young malt showing an intriguing wispy smokiness, it’s evenness more in line with having been matured in ex-Islay casks than using low phenol barley.” And in summary he says “for all its youth, its excellence and quality glimmers from the glass”.
Here’s Horst Luening on YouTube with his review of the new Wolfburn (April 2016):